Memphis Slim rocks. Yes he do. Bear Family’s exquisite new addition to its “Rocks” series now features this ferocious piano-playing singer-songwriter who had too much self-respect to stay in America after realizing how his country treated its own citizens of color. Thus, one of the biggest blues artists in the world—after moving from Tennessee to Chicago—ultimately packed up and became an ex-patriot, finding a country to live in that wasn’t so virulent in its racism. Settling in Paris France in 1968 for the rest of his life, Memphis Slim—born Peter Chatman in 1915—found comfort in Parisian society.
These 29 barrelhouse boogie-woogie rockers—all recorded between 1942 and 1961—were, indeed, the rock’n’roll of its day. Opener “Rocking The Pad” says it all (“we’re gonna rock, we’re gonna roll”) and off he goes, one after another, all recorded before his disgust with America forced his brave and smart decision to get the hell out of here where he could live unfettered by hatred and ignorance. Some tracks have Matt “Guitar” Murphy who went on to fame in the Blues Brothers movie (check out his scintillating solo in the video). With a fascinating 36-page illustrated booklet by Martin Hawkins and careful sound restoration, this is a must-hear. Memphis Slim died in 1988 with a satisfied mind from renal failure at 72. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame a year later and the Memphis Hall of Fame in 2015. (Too bad the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame is too busy inducting ABBA and Joan Baez.)
How did I miss the 28th album of Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, Mercy Me (Stony Plain Records), which came out early last year? It’s his best in quite a while (so was his last album, Rise Up.) Cat can wail. His electric guitar shrieks, moans, cries and demands attention. BB King once called him his son. He’s also been called “The John Coltrane of the Guitar.” And, sure enough, he covers ‘Trane’s “Alabama.” The 12 songs have him ably backed by two pianos, Hammond B-3, two vocalists, drums, bass and two saxophones on seven originals plus covers of Muddy Waters, Dave Mason, Percy Mayfield and Jackie Wilson.
Demetria Taylor is Doin’ What I’m Supposed To Do on her current Delmark Records release featuring hotshot guitarist Mike Wheeler. She’s the real deal, steeped in Chicago blues, the seventh kid of blues powerhouse Eddie Taylor [1923-1985], who taught Jimmy Reed how to play guitar. She lost her brother and her son, stayed out of the studio for 11 years, raised eight kids, and won the 2022 Koko Taylor Queen Of The Blues Award. This follow-up to her 2011 Bad Girl debut will rock your socks off. Highlights include “Welfare Blues” and “Nursing My Kitty Cat.”
The Mojo Man Presents More Boss Black Rockers Volume #5: Sure Look Good To Me and Volume #6: Everything’s Cool (Koko Mojo Records) have a combined 56 tracks of pre’63 wildness that drove parents, teachers and preachers up a wall back in the day. Speedo & The Pearls gets it all started with the lascivious “Who Ya Gonna Kiss” and by the time of “Flippin’ and a’Floppin’” by Pee Wee Kingsley 14 tracks later, you’re hooked. Such treasures! How ‘bout Chubby Checker covering Dion’s “Runaround Sue”? A side platter of guilt permeates “Do you Remember What You Did” by Nolan Strong & The Diablos. “Bone Shaker Joe,” by The Edsels, is a classic about throwing dice. It all ends with Fats Domino heaping more guilt on his slutty girlfriend with “Where Did You Stay Last Night.” Volume #6 is even better with the hot-to-trot Lula Reed asking her shy boyfriend “What Makes You So Cold.” After stimulating tracks by Chuck Berry, Lenny Welch, Baby Washington, Pork Chops and Mamie Bradley, it all ends with “The Whip Twist” by Little Joe Hinton.